Distant voices: Italian films at the London Film Festival

A tragicomic drama from twin brothers D'Innocenzo and a new documentary from celebrated maestro Gianfranco Rosi among the best movies this year

Distant voices: Italian films at the London Film Festival


This year’s London Film Festival which ran from 7-18 October was naturally a slimmed down version of the usually vast annual event, with 13 fascinating new films previewed at the BFI Southbank’s screens and cinemas across the country, from Steve McQueen’s Mangrove, telling the all-too true story of racist persecution of the Notting Hill West Indian community by police in the 1970s, which will be shown on BBC One on November 15, to gentler factual costume drama Ammonite in which fossils fuel illicit passion in Victorian England. Added to these, over fifty more films were available to watch online.

Amongst these two of the best were Italian films, one drama and the other documentary. The first, by the fratelli D’Innocenzo, not very aptly named twin poets and photographers and now film directors was “Bad Tales” (Favolacce), the mordantly comical chronicle of summer in a small town in which the children of vicious parents turn quietly to delinquency. The film is saturated with a febrile energy and an atmosphere of shimmering frustration, nasty fables indeed, superbly shot and performed as they slouch with bitter humour towards a shocking and tragic end.

The real and ongoing tragedy in the Middle East was the subject of celebrated documentarist Gianfranco Rosi’s Notturno, filmed in the desolate border landscapes of Iraq, Kurdistan, Syria and Lebanon, mostly away from the front line but bearing the trauma of violence. Despite the pain it portrays, the film is a sequence of often beautiful images, their protagonists notably female Kurdish troops and mothers of torture victims, interspersed with therapeutic narratives such as psychiatric patients rehearsing a play about the war and children drawing the atrocities they have witnessed, a powerful and unconventional angle on the conflict.

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